News and analysis
February 17, 2015

Points of Light's New CEO Plans to Expand Reach Through Technology

Points of Light

Tracy Hoover (left), the new head of the Points of Light Foundation, wants to find new ways to put technology to work to improve volunteerism. Above, she works with young people to cheer up patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Tracy Hoover, recently promoted from president to chief executive of the Points of Light Foundation, will continue to focus on better ways to connect people with the causes they care about, especially using technology.

For instance, the foundation has helped set up a shareable system of centralized online volunteer background checks so volunteers won’t have to go through the screening process multiple times. And its "civic accelerator" project serves as an incubator for new social ventures, providing money to start-ups like the nonprofit AltrU­Help, which shows nonprofits how to use social media to connect with university and corporate volunteers.

"Our challenge is to continue to invent new ways for people to make a difference that taps into all of their change-making power," Ms. Hoover says. "I think the most successful and high-impact nonprofits will be the ones that are able to enable that in their corporate partnerships but also in the work they do with their volunteers and stakeholders."

Replaces Michelle Nunn

Points of Light, the country’s largest volunteerism charity, was founded 25 years ago by President George H.W. Bush. Ms. Hoover has been serving as its president for the past 18 months.

"I’ve gotten to be a part of and watch a lot of incredible change and innovation in the way that people make change," says Ms. Hoover, adding that she’s driven by the philosophy that "the definition of every successful life includes service."

"That’s certainly been true in my life, and I get to see that play out every single day," she says.

Former chief executive Michelle Nunn took a leave of absence to run for U.S. Senate in Georgia. After losing the race to Republican businessman David Perdue, Ms. Nunn will return to Points of Light as a member of its board.

Ms. Hoover joined HandsOn Atlanta in 1996 as chief executive and served on the board of the Atlanta-based national HandsOn Network, then led by Ms. Nunn. HandsOn Network merged with Points of Light in 2007, and Ms. Hoover remained with the combined organization.

"She knows the organization—and the volunteer movement—backwards and forwards because she helped build it," board chairman Neil Bush said in a statement. "The board has complete confidence that she will be a fantastic CEO, driving Points of Light and the volunteer sector in new and exciting ways."

4 Million Volunteers

The charity, which had revenue of $27-million in 2013, says it engages 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year through its Hands­On Network affiliates in partnerships with thousands of other nonprofits and corporations. With affiliates in 30 countries, the organization continues to expand its reach. "We think there’s tremendous potential to scale," says Ms. Hoover.

Though the nonprofit sector has seen plenty of change in the two decades she’s been involved, Ms. Hoover says the fundamentals have stayed the same.

"People volunteer because they’re asked, they’re invited, they’re called into service by someone that they know and trust," she says. "We all have a role to play. Every single one of us. It doesn’t always take a whole lot of time to make change. There’s actually something that each one of us could do every single day."

Send an e-mail to Eden Stiffman.